WHY CATS KNEAD
The kneading behavior begins early in life, while kittens are nursing. As kittens knead their mother’s mammary glands, oxytocin is released, causing milk to flow.
Animal experts believe other reasons cats knead might include:
• To show affection
• To mark territory: Cats have scent glands between their toes on their front paws
• Separated from mother too early
• Normal behavior of a female cat going into heat
• Because kneading represents a period of comfort and safety for kittens as they snuggle up with their mothers and siblings during nursing, cats continue this behavior to display affection toward others later in life.
• It also serves as a self-comforting behavior, bringing a feeling of contentment for adult cats. A cat’s kneading helps him to feel comfortable and bonded to you.
• It’s probable that cats leave scent from special interdigital scent glands when they knead. It’s been suggested that kneading helps to mark an area as safe.
• Cats have high-level olfactory senses, and like a feline aromatherapy, the cat is working to make your lap smell familiar and relaxing.
• It has been documented that female cats knead when they are going into heat. Experts believe there is a difference between comfort kneading and the kneading performed while seeking a mate.
How to change your cat’s kneading behavior
• Experts agree that you should not punish your cat if (s)he kneads.
• If the kneading bothers you, try to redirect your cat to a soft surface nearby.
• When (s)he begins to knead on your lap, gently move him/her to a soft blanket or pillow, pet him/her, and give him/her treats so (s)he is encouraged to knead that particular soft surface.
While more research could clarify this topic for cat lovers and veterinary professionals, it’s important to remember that, just like you have certain comforting behaviors, kneading is a normal, comforting behavior for many cats. So sit back, relax, and let your kitty make a comfy spot in that lap of yours.